A Massachusetts Democrat is suggesting it's time for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to step aside.
Rep. Stephen Lynch said he doesn't think Pelosi has the ability to return Democrats to the majority in the House.
When asked by a Boston TV host on Tuesday night if Pelosi should go, Lynch said, "Nancy Pelosi will not lead us back into the majority."
Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), who was also in the interview, argued that the 2014 midterm losses, which plunged Democrats even deeper into the minority, indicate that change is necessary.
When pressed if he thinks Pelosi should depart the leadership, Capuano replied, "I think that, or she should change, one way or the other."
But Capuano stressed he doesn't pin all the blame for Democrats' losses in the last election cycle on Pelosi.
"I don't blame one person. That would be incredibly stupid," Capuano said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Capuano issued a statement in which he walked back any suggestion that Pelosi isn't the right figure to lead the Democrats back into the majority.
"She is a fantastic public servant with many great accomplishments, including bringing Democrats back to the majority," Capuano said, referring to the 2006 cycle which propelled Pelosi to Speaker. "Since 2010, something hasn’t been resonating at the polls. I believe that when something’s not working, changes should be made. Any leader who refuses to change in the face of failure should step aside.
"I believe, however, that Nancy Pelosi is making the changes necessary to lead House Democrats back to electoral success," he added, "and I still believe she will do so.”
Lynch, by contrast, appeared to stand behind his remarks in an emailed statement to The Hill.“Over the last three election cycles, the Republicans have built their largest majority since Herbert Hoover was president. It will likely take Democrats multiple cycles to regain that many seats. This should be a rebuilding year and Democrats should be looking to regain the confidence of the American people. We need a fresh start instead of just doing the same thing and all I am saying is that we need big changes if we hope to lead Democrats back to the majority anytime soon.”
Pelosi, a prolific fundraiser who banked more than $100 million for Democrats in the last election cycle, has given no indication that she plans to leave Congress. She has led House Democrats since 2003, marking the longest tenure since former Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-Texas), and is renowned for her ability to unite her caucus.
A Pelosi spokesman noted that she was reelected Democratic leader handily last year, with the support of both Lynch and Capuano.
"The leader was reelected unanimously in her caucus in November and appreciated the support of both of these members in the floor vote in January. While there are disagreements in the closest of families, the leader always values the input of her members as we develop our message going forward," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said.
Pelosi and Capuano have been allies in the past. In 2009, she endorsed Capuano in the Massachusetts Senate Democratic primary to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Capuano ultimately lost to then-Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.
Lynch, meanwhile, is more of a centrist who voted against the 2010 healthcare law — a bill that Pelosi labored mightily to push through the House.
Pelosi, 75, told The Hill earlier this year that she's taking life "one day at a time" when it comes to her future.
Despite some gripes among Democrats about aging leadership, no obvious successor to Pelosi has emerged in the aftermath of the party's losses in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections.
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), who's second in line among the House Democratic leadership, is 75. Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) is 74.
And some of the younger up-and-coming members of the House Democratic Caucus who could be candidates for leadership slots are looking at crossing over to the Senate. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), 56, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, is running to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.). House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.), 57, is also considering a shot for the Senate.
Pelosi said that the promising House Democrats' Senate ambitions slimmed down the possibilities of leadership successors.
"I want members to reach their own personal fulfillment, and they'd be great [senators], I know. I also want to see some generational change in the House," Pelosi said last month.
The question of whether Pelosi should remain the leader of House Democrats came in the context of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announcing his retirement two weeks ago.
Reid, also 75, said in an interview this week that he's lost sight in his right eye due to an injury sustained in an exercising accident on New Year's Day.
In his retirement announcement, Reid maintained that he'd rather depart the Senate leadership now while he's still considered one of the Democrats' best political tacticians. He suggested that some colleagues have remained in Congress for too long.
"I don't want to wind up being a pinch hitter," Reid said in a video announcing his decision not to run for reelection. "I want people to remember me for the first 34 years in Congress, not my last six years in Congress."
— Last updated at 3 p.m. Mike Lillis contributed.